More than 100 arrested in San Francisco anti-war actions

The Bay Area group Direct Action to Stop the War marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion March 19 by blocking key intersection in downtown San Francisco, staging “die-ins” and halting traffic. The corporate headquarters of Chevron and Bechtel and a military recruiting center were also blockaded. Some 150 were arrested at several sites around the city. (Indybay, March 19) Three were charged with felonies such as assault on an officer. (Infoshop News, March 20)

Among those arrested were 20 from Act Against Torture, who were wearing orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their heads. Also arrested was Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who became an anti-war icon when he released the “Pentagon Papers.” (DPA, March 19)

See our last posts on Iraq and the anti-war effort.

  1. Iraq war protesters disrupt Chicago mass
    From AP, March 23:

    CHICAGO — Six Iraq war protesters disrupted an Easter Mass on Sunday, shouting and squirting fake blood on themselves and parishioners in a packed auditorium.

    Three men and three women startled the crowd during Cardinal Francis George’s homily, yelling “Even the Pope calls for peace” as they were removed from the Mass by security guards and ushers.

    One Mass attendee, Mike Wainscott of Chicago, yelled at the anti-war protesters.

    “Are you happy with yourselves?” he said. “There were kids in there. You scared little kids with your selfish act. Are you happy now?”

    The group, which calls itself Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War, said in a statement after the arrests that they targeted the Holy Name Cathedral on Easter to reach a large audience, including Chicago’s most prominent Catholic citizens and the press, which usually covers the services.

    Kevin Clark of International Solidarity Movement told the Chicago Tribune that he attended the Mass to serve as a witness for the protesters.

    “If Cardinal George is a man of peace and is walking the walk and talking the talk, he should have confronted George Bush and demanded an immediate end to the war,” Clark said.

    Speaking after the service, George said, “We should all work for peace, but not by interrupting the worship of God.”

    Police charged each of the six protesters with one count of felony criminal damage to property and two counts each of misdemeanor simple battery.

    The six were scheduled to appear in bond court on Monday to face the felony charge, police said. They have court date set for March 31 on the misdemeanors.

  2. Iraq war protest at IRS
    From AP, March 19:

    WASHINGTON – Police arrested more than 30 people who blocked entrances at the Internal Revenue Service building Wednesday morning, part of a day of protests to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq…

    A marching band led protesters down the street near the National Mall and around the IRS building before about 100 gathered at the main entrance. As police began the arrests, some protesters shouted “This is a crime scene” and “You’re arresting the wrong people.”

  3. US soldiers testify about war crimes
    Aaron Glantz reports for One World US, March 18:

    SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND – Dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans publicly testified this weekend about crimes they committed during the course of battle — many of which were prompted by the orders or policies laid down by superior officers.

    Some international law experts have said the soldiers’ statements show the need for investigations into potential violations of international law by high-ranking officials in the Bush administration and the Pentagon.

    The weekend gathering was designed to demonstrate that well-publicized incidents of U.S. brutality, including the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha, are not isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples,” as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the organizers said, of “an increasingly bloody occupation.”

    The so-called “Winter Soldier” event brought together more than 300 war veterans to discuss soldiers’ actions and the impact of the ongoing wars. The event was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War and was named after a quote from 1776 by the American revolutionary Thomas Paine.

    Among those testifying at the hearing was Cpl. Jason Washburn, a former Marine who served three tours in Iraq. Washburn served in some of the most dangerous parts of the country, including Najaf and Iraq’s Western Anbar Province. A squad in his unit was responsible for the massacre of 26 civilians in Haditha in November 2005.

    Washburn told the gathering his commanders encouraged lawless behavior.

    “We were encouraged to bring ‘drop weapons’ or shovels, in case we accidentally shot a civilian, we could drop the weapon on the body and pretend they were an insurgent,” he said.

    “By the third tour, if they were carrying a shovel or bag, we could shoot them. So we carried these tools and weapons in our vehicles, so we could toss them on civilians when we shot them. This was commonly encouraged.”

    Another former Marine, John Michael Turner, tore off the medals he earned during two tours in Iraq and threw them on the ground.

    “April 18, 2006 was the date of my first confirmed kill,” he told the crowd other veterans. “He was innocent, I called him the fat man. He was walking back to his house and I killed him in front of his father and friend. My first shot made him scream and look into my eyes, so I looked at my friend and said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen,’ and shot him again. After my first kill I was congratulated.”

    Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at the nonprofit group Human Rights Watch, told OneWorld “we shouldn’t scapegoat soldiers for any orders they have been given.”

    “The bottom line should be where up the chain of command does this [investigation] need to go,” he said. “When we’re looking at torture at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay we need to ask where were the officers and what were they doing?”

    In 2006, Garlasco co-authored a report for Human Rights Watch titled “No Blood, No Foul,” which featured numerous anonymous U.S. soldiers telling stories of torturing detainees.

    “Detainee abuse was an established and apparently authorized part of the detention and interrogation processes in Iraq for much of 2003-2005,” the report reads. “The accounts also suggest that U.S. military personnel who felt the practices were wrong and illegal have faced significant obstacles at every turn when they attempted to report or expose the abuses.”

    See our last post on military dissent to the war.